Movie Review: 8 ½ (1963)

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Drama

 

Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastrianni) is a famous film director, and this time he wants to make a movie about his own life, and this time he wants to tell the truth.  The film critic Daumier (Jean Rougeul) the film critic Guido hires, thinks the movie is a metaphorical minefield, not good enough to be considered avant garde. The producers are tired of the director’s self-imposed delays in filming, and Guido is tired of being hassled by everyone on the set.  What is the truth of Guido’s life?  He sees himself as a tortured Catholic soul, tempted from childhood by the weaknesses of the flesh, embodied by a neighborhood prostitute named Saraghina (Eddra Gale) But according to Guido, he has never strayed from his wife, Luisa (Anouk Aimee) Ask Luisa, and there might be a different story, ask Guido’s mistress Carla (Sandra Milo), or the many women he’s slept with and discarded during his life and Guido’s version of the truth becomes more dubious.  The pivotal scene takes place in Guido’s own fantasy, and he’s hardly an innocent bystander.  He’s got a harem of women, and he controls all of them.  He tells the oldest woman to go upstairs, because she is past a certain age, he whips another woman who he thinks is too wild, and his wife is perfectly docile and compliant, washing the floor and doing the dishes. The true Guido is finally revealed.  Will Guido realize he’s a serial adulterer in time to save his marriage?  What about his film?  Does he care enough about his filmmaking to start telling the truth about his shortcomings to himself?

This is an amazing movie, from the opening frame, when the viewer feels the claustrophobia of the director as he gasps for air in his car.  Fellini understands that film is a visual medium, sometimes directors get s bogged down in telling a story that they forget that the image can sometimes tell a story better than words can.  I have not seen use of light and darkness so effectively since Orson Wells did it in Citizen Kane, every shot in Fellini’s world is meticulously thought out.  Sometimes, its theater of the absurd, people walking in slow motion, clowns, a brass band, the director meeting with a Cardinal for confession in a sauna, but more often than not, it’s visually arresting filmmaking.  The cast is incredible too, especially Mastrianni and Aimee as Guido and Luisa, but Sandra Milo is equally good as Guido’s flighty mistress. This is a powerful movie visually and thematically about fame and self-deception.  Do not miss it.  I know the story from the remake 9, but that was a pale imitation of the real thing.  I’m almost glad I sat through the torturous 9, so I could see the original.

8 ½.  A 10.

 

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